Senegal’s democratic record on the line as presidential vote delay sparks crisis

Violent protests have roiled Senegal since President Macky Sall abruptly called off a planned election at the weekend, with just three weeks to go before the high-stakes vote. The crisis puts one of West Africa’s most stable democracies to the test at a time when the region faces democratic backsliding and a surge in military coups.

Senegal’s parliament voted on Monday to delay the country’s presidential election until December 15, two days after President Sall stunned the nation of 18 million people by calling off a planned February 25 vote.  

The bill adopted by the National Assembly effectively extends Sall’s 12-year tenure, which was due to end on April 2. It was passed near-unanimously, with 105 votes in favour and just one against, after several opposition lawmakers were forcibly removed from the chamber. 

Its passage came as police used tear gas to disperse protesters gathered outside the parliament building and as mobile internet services were suspended nationwide to counter the threat of “hateful and subversive messages on social media”. 

The controversial move marks the first time a Senegalese election is postponed since the introduction of multi-party democracy in 1974. It has triggered fierce protests in the West African nation, seen as a democratic bastion of stability in a volatile region roiled by successive military coups. 

‘Constitutional coup’

The decision to delay the vote, just hours before campaigning was officially set to begin, has exacerbated an already tense political climate, with Sall’s critics accusing him of cracking down on opponents and seeking to hold on to power.  

In a televised address on Saturday, the president cited a dispute between the parliament and the country’s Constitutional Council over the disqualification of some candidates, arguing that this had created a “sufficiently serious and confusing situation” to justify delaying the vote. 

His opponents, however, suspect the postponement is part of a plan to extend Sall’s term in office or influence whoever succeeds him. They claim he feared his chosen successor, Prime Minister Amadou Ba, was in danger of losing the election. 


Opposition figure Khalifa Sall, who is not related to the president, denounced “a constitutional coup”, while two opposition parties filed a court petition challenging the election delay. The president’s announcement also sparked the immediate resignation of cabinet minister Abdou Latif Coulibaly, who expressed his dismay at Sall’s move. 

“Maybe it’s just that when you’re in power, you think anything is possible,” Coulibaly told FRANCE 24’s sister radio station RFI. The president “cannot extend his term, it’s impossible”, he added.  

Senegal’s democratic credentials now hang in the balance, said political analyst Gilles Yabi, head of the Dakar-based think tank Wathi, pointing to a constitutional crisis brewing. 

“The situation is alarming because the Constitutional Council, which upholds the constitution and the separation of powers, has come under attack,” he said. “I fear we are entering a period of uncertainty and weakening of our institutions, starting with the one that is most important for protecting freedoms and the fundamental principles of democracy.” 

Echoes of deadly unrest 

Senegal’s political crisis has led to fears of the kind of violent unrest that broke out in March 2021 and June 2023, which resulted in dozens of deaths and hundreds of arrests.  

The catalyst for the unrest was the arrest and later sentencing of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko in a rape case his supporters claim was politically motivated. Sonko and other prominent opponents have denounced a drift towards authoritarianism and accuse the government of manipulating the justice system.  

In the run-up to the last presidential election in 2019, legal woes prevented opposition figures Khalifa Sall and Karim Wade from challenging Sall. Sonko was likewise barred from the forthcoming vote, though his back-up candidate Bassirou Faye is on the ballot. 

Speculation that the incumbent might seek a third term in office, despite a constitutional two-term limit, had further stoked unrest, until he announced in July that he would not stand again. 

“On April 2, 2024, God willing, I will hand over power to my successor,” Sall confirmed on December 31, in what should have been his final New Year address as Senegalese president. 

Accusations of hanging on to power mark an ironic twist for the incumbent, who had led the challenge against his predecessor Abdoulaye Wade in 2012, arguing that the latter’s bid for a third term in office was unconstitutional.  

“Sall himself had warned Wade that he could not stay one extra day as president,” said Yabi of the Wathi think tank. “Back then, he was very clear that any attempt to extend a mandate was contrary to the constitution.” 

A ‘democratic model’ for the West  

Sall eventually ousted Wade, his former mentor, in a run-off vote in 2012. Twelve years on, Senegal’s fifth president since independence prides himself on having transformed the country during his two terms at the helm. 

Sall has introduced sweeping reforms and launched major infrastructure projects, including motorways, industrial parks and a new airport. He has also sought to position himself as a respected and influential player on the international stage, championing the respect of constitutional order even as a wave of military coups swept the region, toppling democratically-elected governments one by one. 

His standing as the leader of a bastion of democracy in the region explains why Senegal’s international allies have expressed concern at the current crisis – but refrained from condemning Sall’s move. 

As a “model of democracy”, Senegal is of extreme importance to the West, said Douglas Yates, a West African politics expert at the American Graduate School in Paris.  

“American presidents visit Senegal precisely because it is a model of democracy,” he said. “And for France, it is one of the most democratic French-speaking countries left standing.”


In a statement on Monday, the US State Department said it was closely monitoring the situation in Dakar. It urged “all participants in Senegal’s political process to engage peacefully in the important effort to hold free, fair and timely elections”. 

On Tuesday, West African bloc ECOWAS, of which Senegal is a key member, expressed its “preoccupation”, encouraging Dakar to “urgently restore the electoral timetable”. 

Rights groups were more alarmist, with Human Rights Watch warning that the country’s status as “a beacon of democracy in the region (…) is now at risk”. 

The advocacy group wrote in a statement: “Authorities need to act to prevent violence, rein in abusive security forces, and end their assault on opposition and media. They should respect freedom of speech, expression, and assembly, and restore internet, putting Senegal back on its democratic course.” 

Despite the alarm, analysts have played down fears of a military takeover akin to the ones witnessed across West Africa in recent years. Senegal has never experienced a coup since gaining independence from France in 1960, making it a rare outlier in a troubled region. 

“Coups are a real concern given the pattern in the region, but Senegal is a unique case,” said Yates. “It’s had three peaceful transitions of power. It’s a consolidated democracy. Elections really are the only game in town.” 

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With ECOWAS exit, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger leave democratic transition in limbo

The announcement that Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso will withdraw from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) “without delay” has put an abrupt end to fractious talks on organising elections and reinstating civilian rule. With their emphasis on restoring “national sovereignty” and driving out terrorist groups, the three West African countries’ military governments have made it clear that organising elections is not their primary concern.   

Since successive coups in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has been trying to get the countries’ military leaders to commit to holding elections to reinstate civilian governments.  

Despite the heavy sanctions imposed, fractious negotiations between the three West African countries and ECOWAS have failed to produce tangible results. In their joint withdrawal announcement on January 28, the interim leaders of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger criticised the West African regional organisation for its lack of support in the fight against terrorism and for adopting “illegal, illegitimate and inhumane” punitive measures. Their exit marks the end of negotiations regarding each country’s electoral timetable, which the military governments had shown little inclination to put in place. 

In Mali, the first country to be affected by the wave of coups that has spread across West Africa in recent years, talks initiated by ECOWAS on the duration of the transition period have seen many twists and turns. Following the August 2020 coup that toppled President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, ECOWAS imposed an economic embargo, closing its borders with the country while maintaining deliveries of essential goods. The military then installed a civilian government committed to holding elections within two years, scheduled for February 27, 2022. However, a second putsch in May 2021 shattered this promise. 

Speaking to FRANCE 24 months after the second coup, Mali’s Prime Minister Choguel Maiga described the February 2022 deadline as unrealistic. “It is better to have a few more weeks, even a few more months” than to have another post-electoral crisis, like the one that led to the fall of President Keïta, he said.   

Since then, the length of the transition period has changed several times. At the end of December 2021, following a “national consultation”, Mali’s interim President Assimi Goïta proposed extending it by five years. This was later reduced to two years under pressure from ECOWAS. Before announcing their withdrawal from the West African regional organisation, the Malian authorities had again postponed the presidential election, scheduled for February 4, 2024, for “technical reasons”, without giving a new date. 

Prioritising fight against terrorism  

The electoral timetable established for Burkina Faso has also been consigned to oblivion. Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, who overthrew President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré in January 2022, had pledged to hold elections in July 2024 until he himself was overthrown by the young Captain Ibrahim Traoré in September 2022. Traoré initially said that he wanted to respect this timetable, but then changed his mind. “It’s not a priority, I’ll tell you that clearly, security is the priority,” he said, when asked about holding elections a year later.  

In Niger, which has been less affected by terrorist attacks by groups linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) group, coup leaders have also justified their actions by citing the “deteriorating security situation”

Read moreNiger coup brings France’s complicated relationship with its former colonies into the spotlight

Following the July 2023 coup, ECOWAS once again entered into negotiations with a military junta to establish an electoral timetable. It threatened the new leaders with military intervention in order to re-establish constitutional order, but failed to bring them to heel.   

“These military regimes’ approach, which consists of prioritising the fight against terrorism over the question of democracy, effectively puts the return to constitutional order at risk, because no one knows when security will return,” said Abba Seidik, a journalist specialising in the Sahel. “It’s true that the situation in Burkina Faso is particularly difficult, but what about in Mali, where the authorities have regained control of Kidal [a town in northern Mali]? Or Niger, where it was possible to hold a presidential election at the end of 2020? Not all situations are identical. Although elections may not have been the primary reason why the three countries withdrew from ECOWAS, it is worth mentioning that [their exit from the group] removes any possibility of applying pressure in this area.” 

Military populism 

The three countries’ decision to leave ECOWAS is further evidence of the regional organisation’s failure to negotiate a return to civilian rule, said Thierry Vircoulon, a Sub-Saharan Africa expert at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI). 

“The commitments by Mali and Burkina Faso’s military governments to hold elections were part of a dialogue with ECOWAS that had already failed,” said Vircoulon. “The elections were already doomed and leaving ECOWAS is just the latest proof of this. These countries practise a form of populist militarism; they have no intention of facing up to election results and are organising popular mobilisations to legitimise themselves.” 

“Regional partners and the international community continue to press them to hold elections – as does a silent segment of their population, which we should not forget,” said Seidik. “But these people are living in a society where freedom of expression has been considerably curtailed. In Mali, critical positions expose people to online lynching campaigns, and it is even worse in Burkina Faso, where we have seen that people can be arrested for criticising the authorities.” 

In Mali’s capital Bamako, very few people spoke out against the decision to leave ECOWAS. The February 20 Coalition (Appel du 20 février), which includes opposition political parties and civil society movements critical of the transitional authorities, issued a press release, denouncing a decision “taken without any form of democratic debate”.  

Meanwhile, the military leaders of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger – united under the banner of the Alliance of Sahel States, a mutual defence pact established in September 2023 –organised “large mobilisations of support” on February 1 to celebrate a “courageous and historic” decision. 

In an interview with former RFI journalist Alain Foka shortly after the ECOWAS exit, Burkina Faso’s interim leader Traoré declined to commit to an election timetable. “There must be a minimum of security so that, if there is an electoral campaign, people can go anywhere in Burkina Faso to explain their ideas,” he said, before touting the army’s accomplishments. “You have to know how to awaken patriotism in a people, to give them confidence, to know that their homeland is the only thing they have left,” he added. “That’s what we’ve managed to do.”

This article has been translated from the original in French

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Niger is the latest victim of Africa’s development paradox

By Hippolyte Fofack, Chief Economist and Director of Research, African Export-Import Bank

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

Under the sticky colonial development model of resource extraction, African natural resources have been a blessing for former colonial powers and a curse for source countries and the entire continent as a whole, Hippolyte Fofack writes.

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When the homeland is dying, it is everyone’s fault. 

And for now, that dying homeland is Niger, the usually-overlooked and landlocked West African nation that has been commanding headlines in even the Western media since late July when the latest in a long line of coups in the Sahel region — stretching from the Atlantic to the Red Sea along the southern edge of the Sahara — was announced by the country’s military.

African affairs typically only enter the mainstream media in the context of humanitarian crises or through the geopolitical prism. 

And sure enough, in this case, the West — led by the US and France, the former colonial power — is concerned that Niger will follow the path already taken in neighbouring Burkina Faso and Mali in the new “scramble for Africa”.

The sudden rise in interest in a country that most people might have trouble distinguishing from Nigeria, its southern neighbour, has put a spotlight on Niger and offered an opportunity to reflect on the key development challenges confronting the region. 

Chief among these is the stickiness of the highly extroverted colonial development model of resource extraction, which has been at the root of intergenerational poverty in Niger and other African states, as well as environmental stresses that fuel insecurity and amplify migration pressures.

A country is so rich, yet its people are poor

Niger is the quintessence of Africa’s development paradox. The country is one of the most natural resource-rich in the world and endowed with plentiful renewable and non-renewable energy sources, but is also one of the world’s poorest. 

Despite being one of the leading producers of gold and a major supplier of uranium, Niger suffers from one of the highest poverty rates in the world and is ranked third from last on the United Nations Human Development Index, ahead of only Chad and South Sudan.

More than 10 million Nigeriens (around 42% of its population) live in extreme poverty, and only 58% of children attend school, down from 66% in 2017. 

Violence and insecurity have caused mass displacement and school closures, with almost 900 schools having been shuttered across affected communities. 

Things have gone from bad to worse in Niger and, indeed, in many Sahelian countries, where more than 22,000 Africans were killed in jihadist-related violence in the 12 months to June 2023, a 50% increase from the year prior.

Terrorist acts and pitch-dark blackouts

Niger’s population has suffocated under a combination of immiserising growth, mismanagement of natural resources, intergenerational poverty, climate disaster, and rampant insecurity. 

Countless villages have been destroyed by itinerant terrorists whose firepower has grown ever more powerful year after year, despite the proliferation of foreign military bases and drone stations in the country. 

Niger hosts strategic US drone bases and French soldiers, as well as troops from Germany, Italy, and Canada.

On top of that, Niger was plunged into blackouts just days after the coup when Nigeria cut off the supply of electricity to its neighbour, in contravention of its obligations as a member of the nine-country Niger Basin Authority. 

The power cuts risk exacerbating insecurity and social stresses in Niger, which has already come under draconian economic and financial sanctions imposed by the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS. 

In addition to freezing Nigerien assets held in regional central banks, these sanctions suspended all commercial and financial transactions between Niger and other member states.

Neighbouring Nigeria suffers from the same paradox

There is a certain irony to Nigeria cutting Niger’s access to power. In normal times, the former provides around 70% of the total electricity consumed by the latter’s homes and industries — despite Nigerians themselves suffering frequent blackouts, which occur so often that the power supply in the country has been called “epileptic”.

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Despite being the largest oil exporter on the continent, Nigeria is actually one of the most energy-poor countries in the world in per capita terms—its citizens consume 113 kilowatt hours of energy per capita annually, against a continental average of 317 kilowatt hours.

Typically, Nigeria’s power system is able to dispatch only around 4 gigawatts per day, far too little to support its population of more than 220 million people.

Around 60% of Nigerians have access to electricity. For the neighbours to the north in Niger where citizens consume a paltry 51 kilowatt hours of energy per capita annually, that percentage stands at less than 20%, and just 9.1% in rural areas, even though the country is endowed with remarkable resource wealth. 

It is one of the world’s leading producers of high-grade uranium, the radioactive material essential to the production of nuclear energy in Europe. Niger’s uranium has served its former colonial possessor, France, especially well.

Let there be light — thanks to Nigeiren uranium

Over a third of all lamps in France light up thanks to Nigerian uranium. Around 70% of France’s electricity is derived from nuclear energy, which has enabled French citizens to consume over 6,950 kilowatts hours of energy per capita annually, one of the highest in the world. 

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Last year, Niger supplied 1,440 tonnes of the country’s natural uranium, accounting for almost 30% of all such imports between 2020-22. More broadly, Niger accounts for a fifth of the European Union’s uranium supplies.

In 2013 the UK-based anti-poverty organization Oxfam published a report detailing how French multinational companies were profiting massively from Niger’s uranium. 

Figures show that in 2010, two Nigerien subsidiaries of Areva, the French nuclear power multinational, extracted 114,346 metric tonnes of uranium in Niger with an export value of more than €3.5 billion, of which just 13% (around €450m) was paid to Niger. 

That share has hardly changed in the intervening years, and with rising military expenditures and constraints on the domestic revenue mobilisation side of the sovereign balance sheet, Niger has fallen into a debilitating donor dependency trap. 

The government depends on foreign aid for around 40% of its budget.

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‘David vs Goliath struggle’

Watchdogs have documented over several years the extent to which the contracts between successive Nigerien governments and multinational companies have exploited the country’s uranium wealth to the detriment of its citizens, both financially and environmentally. 

Niger’s efforts to secure greater benefits from its natural resources were aptly described by Oxfam as a “David vs Goliath struggle”.

In 2010, a Greenpeace investigation revealed dangerous radiation levels among Nigeriens working in the mining sector, with people suffering from unexplained diseases affecting their skin, liver, kidneys, and lungs. 

And earlier this year the France-based Independent Research and Information Commission on Radioactivity found that 20 million tonnes of waste from a recently depleted uranium mine was spreading radon, a potentially lethal radioactive gas, polluting the air and contaminating the soil and water supplies.

Natural resources, a blessing for some, for others a curse

Numerous reports have also documented the climate crimes committed by multinational oil companies, most notably Shell in Nigeria and more specifically in the Niger Delta, the oil-rich region devastated by pollution from oil spills that have cost many residents their livelihoods. 

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In addition to destroying mangrove forests, families were forced to abandon their homes.

Reflecting on the scale of pollution and the human costs, Mark Dummet, then director of Amnesty International’s global issue program, said: “It is incomprehensible to imagine that if these spills and this level of pollution occurred in North America or Europe that it would be allowed to happen.”

The natural resources that were supposed to help improve the welfare of the population have failed to meet expectations. 

Worse still, they have produced enduring pollution and environmental stresses, which have become their main heritage. 

Under the highly extroverted and sticky colonial development model of resource extraction, African natural resources have been a blessing for former colonial powers and a curse for source countries and the entire continent as a whole.

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Democracy will remain fragile

Army Captain Ibrahim Traoré, the young leader of Burkina Faso who engineered his own military coup last year, has been vocal about the similarly incomprehensible position in which Africa finds itself from a development perspective. 

Speaking at the Russia-Africa summit in St Petersburg on 27-28 July hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Traoré asked: “The question that my generation poses to itself, if I can summarise it, is how can Africa, with so many resources under our soil, with such a natural abundance of sun and water, still today remain the poorest continent?” 

Unless we find the right answer to this development paradox and broaden the distributional gains from natural resource exploitation while minimising the negative externalities, democracy will remain fragile.

Waves of campaigners have cheered on troops in Niamey, Niger’s capital, and the first survey of citizens’ opinion of the coup, conducted by Premise Data, is very revealing: 78% of respondents support the military’s actions and 73% believe the coup leaders should stay in power for an extended period or until new elections are held. 

When the homeland is dying under the relentless firepower of jihadist forces and a long heritage of environmental crimes, it is everyone’s fault; and this includes both the military and civilian population.

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Hippolyte Fofack is Chief Economist and Director of Research at the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank).

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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Niger’s future is in danger. World’s response is making it worse

We must remember that the impact of prolonged instability extends far beyond geopolitical concerns — it deeply affects the lives of real people, families, and communities, Paolo Cernuschi writes.

The recent coup in Niger, a West African country already grappling with prolonged poverty and instability, has threatened to exacerbate the challenges faced by vulnerable groups within the country. 

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As the Country Director of the International Rescue Committee in Niger, I am deeply concerned about the severe consequences of prolonged instability not only of the coup but of our collective response to it.

Niger was already one of the world’s poorest nations, struggling disproportionately with the effects of climate change and the destabilizing regional presence of armed groups. 

Yet progress was being made: GDP growth last year was 7.2% and was projected to reach almost 12% next year. 

Attacks on civilians by armed groups were consistently decreasing, to the point where concrete plans were in progress for the return of the 350,000 internally displaced persons to their homes. 

This positive trend could now be reversed, and humanitarian needs could reach a level not before seen in Niger.

Widespread food insecurity is set to get even worse

In response to the coup in Niger on 26 July, the international community reacted with three main responses: regional organisation ECOWAS imposed harsh economic sanctions and border closures; the same organisation threatened military intervention to restore constitutional order; and donor countries suspended to varying degrees their aid to Niger.

All these decisions could have disastrous humanitarian impacts on the most economically vulnerable people my organisation serves.

Even before the current crisis, approximately 3.3 million people, constituting 13% of the population, were living in a state of food insecurity. 

In the week following the announcement of the sanctions, the average price of rice increased by 17%. Local farmers and herders who rely on regional trade are seeing their livelihood opportunities dim.

Border closures further compound the crisis, preventing life-saving humanitarian supplies from reaching the communities that need them most. 

While intended to maintain order and security, these closures hinder the flow of essential aid, creating a barrier that separates people from the assistance they require to survive.

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Organisations cannot get critical supplies in. We have en route shipments of life-saving nutritional supplements for 2,300 children that we don’t know when we’ll receive. While we have contingency stocks in place, those will eventually run out.

Sanctions could also hamper other humanitarian efforts

If border closures and sanctions persist, aid supplies running out will be all but a certainty, and the capacity of humanitarian actors to continue delivering will be jeopardised. 

By some estimates, supplies in the country at the time of the coup were sufficient for two to three months of humanitarian response. With supply chains requiring from a few weeks to a couple of months to replenish stocks, we are fast approaching the point where shortages will be inevitable.

Cash shortages occurred immediately after the sanctions were imposed, driven by the interruption of transactions within the regional monetary union and a run on banks. 

The situation has moderately improved but strict withdrawal limits are still in place, complicating the work of implementers of cash-based programming. 

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Protracted cash shortages will make it difficult to continue doing so, threatening one of the most effective ways of delivering aid.

It is clear that these sanctions, while intended to influence political change and stand up for democracy and international norms, have unintended adverse impacts on the lives of ordinary citizens who are already struggling to meet their basic needs. 

That is why, at the very least, humanitarian exemptions must be guaranteed to ensure continuity of humanitarian work in Niger.

The ‘do no harm’ approach must be prioritised

At the same time, the spectre of a catastrophic military intervention looms, with real fears of regional spillovers. 

In Niamey, it is quietly discussed as a not-so-distant fear, as few want to really contemplate that scenario. 

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But its effects on the humanitarian situation in Niger and neighbouring countries would be disastrous, increasing human suffering and growing the humanitarian need beyond what could conceivably be supported. 

For this reason, the international community and regional organisations must prioritise a “do no harm” approach in dealing with this situation.

Finally, aid suspension announced by several countries is worrying, particularly when it affects programs designed to provide basic services to communities. 

When, for example, funding to NGO programs supporting the economic development of rural communities is suspended, it directly affects people who are already vulnerable and who have limited power to influence change in a capital city hundreds of kilometres away. 

It undermines years of investments in strengthening community resilience in the face of shocks and crises. And in the longer term, it increases the need for emergency food assistance, putting further pressure on already stretched humanitarian funding.

We have to prioritise the well-being of all Nigeriens

Years of steady progress in local development and in countering extremism, and with it, hopes of creating a safe future and durable solutions for the people of the region, can backslide quickly if support for communities just stops.

Diplomatic efforts should focus on finding peaceful solutions that prioritise the well-being of all Nigerien citizens, regardless of their socio-economic status. 

We must remember that the impact of prolonged instability extends far beyond geopolitical concerns; it deeply affects the lives of real people, families, and communities. 

The situation in Niger calls for a coordinated and compassionate response that upholds the principles of humanitarianism and ensures that no one is left behind. And the Nigerien people deserve that and a whole lot more.

Paolo Cernuschi serves as Niger Country Director at the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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Niger junta vows transition to civilian rule within three years

General Abdourahmane Tchiani gave no details on the plan, saying on state television only that the principles for the transition would be decided within 30 days at a dialogue to be hosted by the junta.

The leader of mutinous soldiers who ousted Niger’s democratically elected president said Saturday night that they will return the country to civilian rule within three years.

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General Abdourahmane Tchiani gave no details on the plan, saying on state television only that the principles for the transition would be decided within 30 days at a dialogue to be hosted by the junta.

“I am convinced that … we will work together to find a way out of the crisis, in the interests of all,” Tchiani said, commenting after his first meeting with a regional delegation seeking to resolve the West African nation’s crisis.

The delegation from the ECOWAS bloc, headed by former Nigerian head of state General Abdulsalami Abubakar, also met separately with toppled President Mohamed Bazoum. It joined reconciliation efforts by Leonardo Santos Simao, the UN special representative for West Africa and the Sahel, who arrived Friday.

ECOWAS on August 10 ordered the deployment of a “standby force” to restore constitutional rule in Niger. On Friday, the ECOWAS commissioner for peace and security, Abdel-Fatau Musah, said 11 of its 15 member states had agreed to commit troops to military intervention, saying they were “ready to go.”

The soldiers who overthrew Bazoum last month have quickly entrenched themselves in power, rebuffed most dialogue efforts and kept Bazoum, his wife and son under house arrest in the capital.

The 11 member states that agreed to intervene militarily don’t include the bloc’s three other countries under military rule following coups: Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso. The latter two have warned they would consider any intervention in Niger an act of war. On Friday, Niger’s state television said that Mali and Burkina Faso had dispatched warplanes in a show of solidarity.

Friday’s announcement was the latest in a series of so far empty threats by ECOWAS to forcefully restore democratic rule in Niger, conflict analysts say. Immediately after the coup, the bloc gave the junta seven days to release and restore Bazoum, a deadline that came and went with no action.

“The putschists won’t be holding their breath this time over the renewed threat of military action,” said Ulf Laessing, head of the Sahel program at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a think tank.

Junta cementing its rule

The junta leaders are cementing their rule and appointing loyal commanders to key units while ECOWAS has no experience with military action in hostile territory and would have no local support if it tried to intervene, he said.

“Niger is a very fragile country that can easily turn, in case of a military intervention, into a failed state like Sudan,” said Laessing.

ECOWAS used force to restore order in 2017 in Gambia when longtime President Yahya Jammeh refused to step down after he lost the presidential election. That move involved diplomatic efforts led by the then-presidents of Mauritania and Guinea, while Jammeh appeared to be acting on his own after the Gambian army pledged allegiance to the winner of the election, Adama Barrow.

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Also on Saturday, the new US ambassador to Niger, Kathleen FitzGibbon, arrived in the capital, said Matthew Miller, spokesman for the State Department. The US hasn’t had an ambassador in the country for nearly two years.

FitzGibbon will focus on advocating for a diplomatic solution that preserves constitutional order in Niger and for the immediate release of Bazoum, his family, and all those unlawfully detained, said Miller. Her arrival does not reflect a change in the US policy position, he said.

Preparing to fight

On the streets of the capital Saturday, many residents said they were preparing to fight back against an ECOWAS military intervention.

Thousands of people in the capital of Niamey lined up outside the main stadium to register as fighters and volunteers to help with other needs in case the junta requires support. Some parents brought their children to sign up.

Some people said they’d been waiting since 3 a.m., while groups of youths boisterously chanted in favour of the junta and against ECOWAS and the country’s former colonial ruler France.

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″I am here for the recruitment to become a good soldier. We are all here for that,” said Ismail Hassan, a resident waiting in line to register. “If God wills, we will all go.”

Events organizer Amsarou Bako claimed the junta was not involved in recruiting volunteers to defend the coup, although it is aware of the initiative. Hours after the drive started, the organizers said it would be postponed, but didn’t explain why.

The humanitarian situation in the country is also on the agenda of the UN’s West Africa and Sahel special representative.

Western partnerships

Before the coup, nearly 3 million people were facing severe food insecurity and hundreds of thousands were internally displaced, according to CARE, an international aid group. Economic and travel sanctions imposed by ECOWAS after the coup, coupled with the deteriorating security, will have dire consequences for the population, CARE said.

Prior to the coup, Western countries had seen Niger as one of the last democratic nations they could partner with to beat back a growing jihadi insurgency linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group and poured millions of dollars of military aid and assistance into shoring up Niger’s forces.

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Since the coup, former jihadis have told The Associated Press that militants have been taking advantage of the freedom of movement caused by suspended military operations by the French and the US and a distracted Nigerien army that is focusing efforts on the capital.

Last week, at least 17 soldiers were killed and 20 wounded in an ambush by militants. It was the first major attack against Niger’s army in six months. A day later, at least 50 civilians were killed in the Tillaberi region by extremists believed to be members of the Islamic State group, according to an internal security report for aid groups seen by the AP.

“While Niger’s leaders are consumed by politics in the capital, the drumbeat of lethal jihadist attacks goes on in the countryside,” said Corinne Dufka a political analyst who specializes in the Sahel region.

“The recent attacks should motivate all parties to work for as speedy and inclusive a transition as possible so they can get back to the crucial business of protecting civilians from the devastating consequences of war,” she said.

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ECOWAS delegation arrives in Niger for last-ditch diplomatic push

On Friday, the ECOWAS commissioner for peace and security, Abdel-Fatau Musah, said 11 of its 15 member states agreed to commit troops to a military deployment, saying they were “ready to go” whenever the order was given.

A delegation from regional nations arrived in Niger Saturday afternoon in a last-ditch diplomatic effort to reach a peaceful solution with mutinous soldiers who ousted the country’s president last month.

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The representatives from the West African regional bloc, ECOWAS, came to the capital, Niamey, and joined efforts by United Nations Special Representative for West Africa and the Sahel, Leonardo Santos Simao, who arrived on Friday, in trying to facilitate a resolution to the ongoing crisis.

On Friday UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Simao would meet with the junta and other parties to try and facilitate a swift and peaceful resolution to Niger’s crisis.

“What we want to see is a return to the constitutional order. We want to see the liberation of the president and his family and restoration of his legitimate authority,” he said.

On August 10, ECOWAS ordered the deployment of a “standby force” to restore constitutional rule in the country.

The soldiers who overthrew Niger’s democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum in July have quickly entrenched themselves in power, rebuffed most dialogue efforts and kept Bazoum, his wife and son under house arrest in the capital.

On Friday, the ECOWAS commissioner for peace and security, Abdel-Fatau Musah, said 11 of its 15 member states agreed to commit troops to a military deployment, saying they were “ready to go” whenever the order was given.

The 11 member states don’t include Niger itself and the bloc’s three other countries under military rule following coups: Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso. The latter two have warned they would consider any intervention in Niger an act of war. On Friday, Niger’s state television said that Mali and Burkina Faso had dispatched warplanes in a show of solidarity.

Fragile country

Friday’s announcement is the latest in a series of empty threats by ECOWAS to forcefully restore democratic rule in Niger, say conflict analysts.

Immediately after the coup, the bloc gave the junta seven days to release and restore Bazoum, a deadline that came and went with no action.

“The putschists won’t be holding their breath this time over the renewed threat of military action,” said Ulf Laessing, head of the Sahel program at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a think tank. Meanwhile, the mutinous soldiers are cementing their rule and appointing loyal commanders to key units while ECOWAS has no experience with military action in hostile territory and would have no local support if it tried to intervene, he said.

“Niger is a very fragile country that can easily turn, in case of a military intervention, into a failed state like Sudan,” said Laessing.

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ECOWAS used force to restore order in member countries in 2017 in Gambia when longtime President Yahya Jammeh refused to step down after he lost the presidential election. But even in that case, the move had involved diplomatic efforts led by the then-presidents of Mauritania and Guinea, while Jammeh appeared to be acting on his own after the Gambian army pledged allegiance to the winner of the election, Adama Barrow.

Also on Saturday, the new United States Ambassador to Niger, Kathleen FitzGibbon, arrived in the capital, said Matthew Miller, spokesman for the State Department. The US hasn’t had an ambassador in the country for nearly two years.

FitzGibbon will focus on advocating for a diplomatic solution that preserves constitutional order in Niger and for the immediate release of Bazoum, his family, and all those unlawfully detained, said Miller. Her arrival does not reflect a change in the US policy position, he said.

Preparing to fight back

On the streets of the capital Saturday, many residents said they’re preparing to fight back against an ECOWAS military intervention.

Thousands of people in Niamey lined up outside the main stadium to register as volunteers, fighters and to help with other needs in case the junta requires support. Some parents brought their children to sign up; others said they’d been waiting since 3 a.m., while groups of youths boisterously chanted in favour of the junta and against ECOWAS and the country’s former colonial ruler France.

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“I am here for the recruitment to become a good soldier. We are all here for that,” said Ismail Hassan a resident waiting in line to register. “If God wills, we will all go.”

Events organizer Amsarou Bako claimed that the junta was not involved in finding volunteers to defend the coup, although it is aware of the initiative. Hours after the drive started, the organizers said it would be postponed, but didn’t explain why.

The humanitarian situation in the country is also on the agenda of the UN’s West Africa and Sahel special representative.

Before the coup, nearly 3 million people were facing severe food insecurity and hundreds of thousands were internally displaced, according to CARE, an international aid group. Economic and travel sanctions imposed by ECOWAS after the coup, coupled with the deteriorating security, will have dire consequences for the population, CARE said.

Partnership against extremism

Previously, Western countries saw Niger as one of the last democratic nations they could partner with to beat back a growing jihadi insurgency linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group and poured millions of dollars of military aid and assistance into shoring up Niger’s forces.

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Since the coup, former jihadis told The Associated Press that militants have been taking advantage of the freedom of movement caused by suspended military operations by the French and the US and a distracted Nigerien army that is focusing efforts on the capital.

Last week, at least 17 soldiers were killed and 20 injured during an ambush by jihadis. It was the first major attack against Niger’s army in six months. A day later, at least 50 civilians were killed in the Tillaberi region, by extremists believed to be members of the Islamic State group, according to an internal security report for aid groups seen by the AP.

“While Niger’s leaders are consumed by politics in the capital, the drumbeat of lethal jihadist attacks goes on in the countryside,” said Corinne Dufka a political analyst who specializes in the Sahel region.

“The recent attacks should motivate all parties to work for as speedy and inclusive a transition as possible so they can get back to the crucial business of protecting civilians from the devastating consequences of war. In due time, Nigeriens and their partners should look long and hard at why and how democracy in Niger faltered,” she said.

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Tensions rise as West African nations prepare to send troops to restore democracy in Niger

Tensions are escalating between Niger’s new military regime and the West African regional bloc that has ordered the deployment of troops to restore Niger’s flailing democracy.

The ECOWAS bloc said on Thursday it had directed a “standby force” to restore constitutional order in Niger after its Sunday deadline to reinstate ousted President Mohamed Bazoum expired.

Hours earlier, two Western officials told The Associated Press that Niger’s junta had told a top U.S. diplomat they would kill Bazoum if neighboring countries attempted any military intervention to restore his rule.

Also Read: ECOWAS left with limited options as Niger’s junta defies mediation efforts

It’s unclear when or where the force will deploy and which countries from the 15-member bloc would contribute to it. Conflict experts say it would likely comprise some 5,000 troops led by Nigeria and could be ready within weeks.

After the ECOWAS meeting, neighboring Ivory Coast’s president, Alassane Ouattara, said his country would take part in the military operation, along with Nigeria and Benin.

“Ivory Coast will provide a battalion and has made all the financial arrangements … We are determined to install Bazoum in his position. Our objective is peace and stability in the sub-region,” Ouattara said on state television.

Niger, an impoverished country of some 25 million people, was seen as one of the last hopes for Western nations to partner with in beating back a jihadi insurgency linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group that’s ravaged the region. France and the United States have more than 2,500 military personnel in Niger and together with other European partners had poured hundreds of millions of dollars into propping up its military.

The junta responsible for spearheading the coup, led by Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, has exploited anti-French sentiment among the population to shore up its support.

Nigeriens in the capital, Niamey, on Friday said ECOWAS isn’t in touch with the reality on the ground and shouldn’t intervene.

“It is our business, not theirs. They don’t even know the reason why the coup happened in Niger,” said Achirou Harouna Albassi, a resident. Bazoum was not abiding by the will of the people, he said.

On Friday the African Union expressed strong support for ECOWAS’ decision and called on the junta to “urgently halt the escalation with the regional organization.” It also called for the immediate release of Bazoum. An African Union meeting to discuss the situation in Niger expected on Saturday was postponed.

Also Read: US to hold Niger military junta accountable for detained leader’s safety, Blinken says

On Thursday night after the summit, France’s foreign ministry said it supported “all conclusions adopted.” U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken said his country appreciated “the determination of ECOWAS to explore all options for the peaceful resolution of the crisis” and would hold the junta accountable for the safety and security of President Bazoum. However, he did not specify whether the U.S. supported the deployment of troops.

The mutinous soldiers that ousted Bazoum more than two weeks ago have entrenched themselves in power, appear closed to dialogue and have refused to release the president. Representatives of the junta told U.S. Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland of the threat to Bazoum’s life during her visit to the country this week, a Western military official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

A U.S. official confirmed that account, also speaking on condition of anonymity, because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

“The threat to kill Bazoum is grim,” said Alexander Thurston, assistant professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati. There have been unwritten rules until now about how overthrown presidents will be treated and violence against Bazoum would evoke some of the worst coups of the past, he said.

Human Rights Watch said Friday that it had spoken to Bazoum, who said that his 20-year-old son was sick with a serious heart condition and has been refused access to a doctor. The president said he hasn’t had electricity for nearly 10 days and isn’t allowed to see family, friends or bring supplies into the house.

It’s unclear if the threat on Bazoum’s life would change ECOWAS’ decision to intervene military. It might give them pause, or push the parties closer to dialogue, but the situation has entered uncharted territory, analysts say.

“An ECOWAS invasion to restore constitutional order into a country of Niger’s size and population would be unprecedented,” said Nate Allen, an associate professor at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. Niger has a fairly large and well-trained army that, if it actively resisted an invasion, could pose significant problems for ECOWAS. This would be a very large and significant undertaking, he said.

While the region oscillates between mediation and preparing for war, Nigeriens are suffering the impact of harsh economic and travel sanctions imposed by ECOWAS.

Also Read: Niger’s military junta digs in with cabinet appointments and rejects talks

Before the coup, more than 4 million Nigeriens were reliant on humanitarian assistance and the situation could become more dire, said Louise Aubin, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Niger.

“The situation is alarming. … We’ll see an exponential rise and more people needing more humanitarian assistance,” she said, adding that the closure of land and air borders makes it hard to bring aid into the country and it’s unclear how long the current stock will last.

Aid groups are battling restrictions on multiple fronts.

ECOWAS sanctions have banned the movement of goods between member countries, making it hard to bring in materials. The World Food Program has some 30 trucks stuck at the Benin border unable to cross. Humanitarians are also trying to navigate restrictions within the country as the junta has closed the airspace, making it hard to get clearance to fly the humanitarian planes that transport goods and personnel to hard-hit areas.

Flights are cleared on a case-by-case basis and there’s irregular access to fuel, which disrupts aid operations, Aubin said.

The U.N. has asked ECOWAS to make exceptions to the sanctions and is speaking to Niger’s foreign ministry about doing the same within the country.

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Ecowas orders ‘standby force’ to restore constitutional order in Niger

West Africa leaders have directed the deployment of a ‘standby force’ to restore democracy in Niger after the coup.

The Ecowas bloc in West Africa has ordered the  deployment of a standby force to restore constitutional order in Niger, even as coup leaders say they’ll kill the ousted president if neighbouring countries intervene.

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West African leaders meeting in Nigeria have directed the deployment of a ‘standby force’ to restore democracy in Niger after the coup.

Standby force

But two Western officials have told The Associated Press that junta leaders in Niger told an American diplomat that deposed President Mohamed Bazoum would be killed if there was any attempt to intervene militarily.

Representatives of the junta told US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland of the threat to Bazoum during her visit to the country this week, a Western military official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

Bazoum, who was deposed on July 26, says he is being held hostage at his residence and the United Nations has expressed concern that he and his family have only limited food and water.

Ecowas gave no details about the make-up, location and proposed date of deployment for any military intervention force following its meeting on Thursday in the Nigerian capital, Abuja.

Clarification

Asked for clarification, the president of the Ecowas commission, Omar Alieu Touray, said he could only reaffirm the decisions by “the military authorities in the subregion to deploy a standby force of the community.”

Financing had been discussed and “appropriate measures have been taken,” he said.

He blamed the junta for any hardship caused by the sanctions imposed on Niger and said further actions by the bloc would be taken jointly, not by any single country.

“It is not one country against another country. The community has instruments to which all members have subscribed to,” he said.

After the junta defied the deadline of Sunday set by Ecowas to reinstate Bazoum, analysts say the bloc may be running out of options as support fades for intervention.

Closed-door meeting

Nine of the 11 heads of state expected to attend were present, including the presidents of Senegal, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Togo, Benin, Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone. The non-ECOWAS leaders of Mauritania and Burundi also participated in the closed-door meeting.

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“It is crucial that we prioritise diplomatic negotiations and dialogue as the bedrock of our approach,” said Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who currently chairs the bloc, said before the closed part of the meeting.

Niger was seen as the last country in the Sahel region south of the Sahara Desert that Western nations could partner with to counter jihadi violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group that has killed thousands and displaced millions of people. The international community is scrambling to find a peaceful solution to the country’s leadership crisis.

“Let me tell you, any coup that has succeeded beyond 24 hours has come to stay. So, as it is, they are speaking from the point of strength and advantage,” said Oladeinde Ariyo, a security analyst in Nigeria. “So, negotiating with them will have to be on their terms.”

General Abdourahmane Tchiani

On Wednesday, a Nigerian delegation led by the former Emir of Kano, Khalifa Muhammad Sanusi, met the junta’s leader, Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani. The former emir was one of few people allowed to meet Tchiani.

When Nuland met with the coup leaders earlier this week, she was denied access to both Tchiani and Bazoum. A separate delegation comprised of Ecowas, the United Nations and the African Union was barred from coming at all.

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Ecowas has failed to stem past coups throughout the region. Niger is the fourth country in the 15-member state bloc to have experienced a coup in the last three years.

The bloc has imposed harsh economic and travel sanctions.

But as the junta becomes more entrenched, the options for negotiations are becoming limited, said Andrew Lebovich, a research fellow with the Clingendael Institute.

“It’s very difficult to say what might come out of it, but the fact that the initial deadline passed without intervention and that the (junta) has continued to hold a fairly firm line, indicate that they think they can outlast this pressure,” he said.

The main parties’ positions are dangerously far apart, according to the International Crisis Group, a think tank, which said that if dialogue is going to succeed, each side is going to have to make concessions, which they’ve so far refused to do.

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Ties with France

Since seizing power, the junta has cut ties with France and exploited popular grievances toward its former colonial ruler to shore up its support base. It also has asked for help from the Russian mercenary group Wagner, which operates in a handful of African countries and has been accused of committing human rights abuses.

Moscow is using Wagner and other channels of influence to discredit Western nations, asserted Lou Osborn, an investigator with All Eyes on Wagner, a project focusing on the group.

Tactics include using social media to spread rumours about Wagner’s upcoming arrival in Niger and employing fake accounts to mobilise demonstrations and spread false narratives, Osborn said. “Their objective is not to support the junta or an alternative political approach but to sow discord, create chaos, destabilise,” she said.

Wagner mercenaries

She pointed to a Telegram post on Wednesday by an alleged Wagner operative, Alexander Ivanov, asserting that France had begun the “mass removal of children” likely to be used for slave labour and sexual exploitation.

Neither Russia’s government nor Wagner responded to questions.

While there’s no reason to believe Russia was behind the coup, it will leverage the opportunity to gain a stronger foothold in the region, something Western nations were trying to avoid, Sahel experts say.

France and the United States have more than 2,500 military personnel in Niger and along with other European nations have poured hundreds of millions of dollars of military assistance into propping up the country’s forces. Much of that aid has now been suspended.

Meanwhile, Niger’s approximately 25 million people are feeling the impact of the sanctions.

Some neighbourhoods in the capital, Niamey have little access to electricity and there are frequent power cuts across the city. The country gets up to 90% of its power from Nigeria, which has cut off some of the supply.

Since the coup, Hamidou Albade, 48, said he’s been unable to run his shop on the outskirts of Niamey because there’s been no electricity. He also works as a taxi driver but lost business there, too, because a lot of of his foreign clients have left the city.

“It’s very difficult, I just sit at home doing nothing,” he said. Still, he supports the junta. “We’re suffering now, but I know the junta will find a solution to get out of the crisis,” he said.

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Niger’s ousted president is running low on food under house arrest

Niger’s deposed president is running out of food and under increasingly dire conditions two weeks after he was ousted in a military coup and put under house arrest, an adviser said Wednesday.

The US State Department expressed deep concern about the “deteriorating conditions” of his detention.

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President Mohamed Bazoum, the West African nation’s democratically elected leader, has been held at the presidential palace in Niamey with his wife and son since mutinous soldiers moved against him on 26 July.

The family is living without electricity and only has rice and canned goods left to eat, the adviser said. Bazoum remains in good health for now and will never resign, according to the adviser, who wasn’t authorised to discuss the sensitive situation with the media and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Bazoum’s political party issued a statement confirming the president’s living conditions and said the family also was without running water.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Bazoum on Tuesday about recent diplomatic efforts, a statement said, and Blinken “emphasised that the safety and security of President Bazoum and his family are paramount.” The State Department statement on Wednesday called for their immediate release.

This week, Niger’s new military junta took steps to entrench itself in power and rejected international efforts to mediate. On Wednesday, it accused former colonizer France of trying to destabilise the country, violate its closed airspace and discredit the junta leaders. France’s foreign and defence ministries in a joint statement called the allegations unfounded.

On Monday, the junta named a new prime minister, civilian economist Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine. He is a former economy and finance minister who left office after a previous coup in 2010 toppled the government at the time. Zeine later worked at the African Development Bank.

“The establishment of a government is significant and signals, at least to the population, that they have a plan in place, with support from across the government,” said Aneliese Bernard, a former State Department official who specialized in African affairs and is now director of Strategic Stabilization Advisors, a risk advisory group.

The junta also refused to admit meditation teams from the United Nations, the African Union, and the West African regional bloc ECOWAS, citing “evident reasons of security in this atmosphere of menace,” according to a letter seen by The Associated Press.

ECOWAS had threatened to use military force if the junta did not reinstate Bazoum by Sunday, a deadline that the junta ignored and which passed without action from ECOWAS. The bloc is expected to meet again on Thursday to discuss the situation.

It’s been exactly two weeks since soldiers first detained Bazoum and seized power, claiming they could do a better job at protecting the nation from jihadi violence. Groups linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group have ravaged the Sahel region, a vast expanse south of the Sahara Desert that includes part of Niger.

Most analysts and diplomats said the stated justification for the coup did not hold weight and the takeover resulted from a power struggle between the president and the head of his presidential guard, Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, who now says he runs the country.

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The coup comes as a blow to many countries in the West, which saw Niger as one of the last democratic partners in the region they could work with to beat back the extremist threat. It’s also an important supplier of uranium.

Niger’s partners have threatened to cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance if it does not return to constitutional rule.

While the crisis drags on, Niger’s 25 million people are bearing the brunt. It’s one of the poorest countries in the world, and many Nigeriens live hand to mouth and say they’re too focused on finding food for their families to pay much attention to the escalating crisis.

Harsh economic and travel sanctions imposed by ECOWAS since the coup have caused food prices to rise by up to five per cent, according to traders. Erkmann Tchibozo, a shop owner from neighbouring Benin who works in Niger’s capital, Niamey, said it’s been hard to get anything into the country to stock his shop near the airport.

If it continues like this, the situation is going to become very difficult, he said.

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The junta shut Niger’s airspace this week and temporarily suspended authorization for diplomatic flights from friendly and partner countries, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Acting US Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland met with the coup leaders but said they refused to allow her to meet Bazoum. She described the mutinous officers as unreceptive to her appeals to start negotiations and restore constitutional rule.

The United States has some 1,100 military personnel in the country and has seen Niger as a strategic and reliable partner in the region.

Still, Nuland made more headway than other delegations. A previous ECOWAS delegation was prevented from leaving the airport.

It’s unclear how much coordination is involved in the various mediation efforts. Some experts have worried that if the work is not coordinated, it could undermine ECOWAS.

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“I think the US would come to a modus vivendi with this junta if the junta proved particularly amenable to U.S interests, but that doesn’t seem to be on the table for now,” said Alexander Thurston, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati.

Analysts say the longer it takes to find a solution, the more time the junta has to dig in and the less momentum there will be to oust it. Other African nations are also divided on how to proceed.

Neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso, both of which are run by military regimes, have sided with the junta and warned that intervention in Niger would be “tantamount to a declaration of war” against them. In a joint letter Tuesday to the UN, the two countries appealed for the organization to “prevent by all means at its disposal, armed action against a sovereign state.”

Mali and Burkina Faso also sent representatives to Niamey this week to discuss military options. Officials from all sides said the talks went well.

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Niger’s ousted president is said to be running low on food under house arrest 2 weeks after coup

Niger’s deposed president is running out of food and experiencing other increasingly dire conditions two weeks after he was ousted in a military coup and put under house arrest, an advisor told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

President Mohamed Bazoum, the West African nation’s democratically elected leader, has been held at the presidential palace in Niamey with his wife and son since mutinous soldiers moved against him on July 26.

The family is living without electricity and only has rice and canned goods left to eat, the advisor said. Mr. Bazoum remains in good health for now and will never resign, according to the advisor, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the sensitive situation with the media.


Editorial: Coup in Niger: On the ouster of President Mohamed Bazoum

Mr. Bazoum’s political party issued a statement confirming the president’s living conditions and said the family also was without running water.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Mr. Bazoum on Tuesday about recent diplomatic efforts, a spokesman said, and Blinken “emphasized that the safety and security of President Bazoum and his family are paramount.”

This week, Niger’s new military junta took steps to entrench itself in power and rejected international efforts to mediate.

On Monday, the junta named a new prime minister, civilian economist Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine. Zeine is a former economy and finance minister who left office after a previous coup in 2010 toppled the government at the time. He later worked at the African Development Bank.

“The establishment of a government is significant and signals, at least to the population, that they have a plan in place, with support from across the government,” Aneliese Bernard, a former U.S. State Department official who specialized in African affairs and is now director of Strategic Stabilization Advisors, a risk advisory group.


Also read: Explained | What led to the coup in Niger? Does it follow a wider pattern in the Sahel?

The junta also refused to admit meditation teams from the United Nations, the African Union, and West African regional bloc ECOWAS, citing “evident reasons of security in this atmosphere of menace,” according to a letter seen by The Associated Press.

ECOWAS had threatened to use military force if the junta didn’t reinstate Mr. Bazoum by Sunday, a deadline that the junta ignored and which passed without action from ECOWAS. The bloc is expected to meet again Thursday to discuss the situation.

It’s been exactly two weeks since soldiers first detained Mr. Bazoum and seized power, claiming they could do a better job at protecting the nation from jihadi violence. Groups linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group have ravaged the Sahel region, a vast expanse south of the Sahara Desert that includes part of Niger.

Most analysts and diplomats said the stated justification for the coup did not hold weight and the takeover resulted from a power struggle between the president and the head of his presidential guard, Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, who now says he runs the country.

The coup comes as a blow to many countries in the West, which saw Niger as one of the last democratic partners in the region they could work with to beat back the extremist threat. It’s also an important supplier of uranium.

Niger’s partners have threatened to cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance if it does not return to constitutional rule.

While the crisis drags on, Niger’s 25 million people are bearing the brunt. It’s one of the poorest countries in the world, and many Nigeriens live hand to mouth and say they’re too focused on finding food for their families to pay much attention to the escalating crisis.

Harsh economic and travel sanctions imposed by ECOWAS since the coup have caused food prices to rise by up to 5%, say traders. Erkmann Tchibozo, a shop owner from neighboring Benin who works in Niger’s capital, Niamey, said it’s been hard to get anything into the country to stock his shop near the airport.

If it continues like this, the situation is going to become very difficult, he said.

The junta also shut Niger’s airspace this week and temporarily suspended authorization for diplomatic flights from friendly and partner countries, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Acting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland met with the coup leaders but said they refused to allow her to meet Mr. Bazoum. She described the mutinous officers as unreceptive to her appeals to start negotiations and restore constitutional rule.

The U.S. has some 1,100 military personnel in the country and has seen Niger as a strategic and reliable partner in the region.

Still, Ms. Nuland made more headway than other delegations. A previous ECOWAS delegation was prevented from leaving the airport.

It’s unclear how much coordination is involved in the various mediation efforts. Some experts have worried that if the work is not coordinated, it could undermine ECOWAS.

“I think the U.S would come to a modus vivendi with this junta, if the junta proved particularly amenable to U.S interests, but that doesn’t seem to be on the table for now,” Alexander Thurston, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati, said.

But analysts say the longer it takes to find a solution, the more time the junta has to dig in and the less momentum there will be to oust it. Other African nations are also divided on how to proceed.

Neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso, both of which are run by military regimes, have sided with the junta and warned that an intervention in Niger would be “would be tantamount to a declaration of war” against them. In a joint letter Tuesday to the United Nations, the two countries appealed for the organization to “prevent by all means at its disposal, armed action against a sovereign state.”

Mali and Burkina Faso also sent representatives to Niamey this week to discuss military options. Officials from all sides said the talks went well.

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